The Flow of Joy

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It’s been a bit of a rough road, all this moving business.  New town, new house, new school, new friends.  All the “newness” has taken a toll on my daughter lately; it can be a drag being the odd-man-out when you’re nine, you know?

To combat the strain of the unfamiliar – and maybe even to foster a bit of nostalgia – we’ve been trying to find places in our new town that are similar to our old haunts. Tonight we stumbled onto a really cool fountain that, on a 90 degree evening, just begged to be run through. We had a great fountain in our old town, and my girl was so excited to find a new one here to check out.

She wasted no time getting the lay of the wet-land.  I had settled on an outskirt bench with the bag/towel/flip-flops.  The sun was at that pinnacle where it shimmers extra brightly, knowing it only has about an hour or so before it will lazily sink down for the night.  The water bounced off the beams of light in the magical way that rivulets do when they move in time with the glimmer and glow.  And as I looked over at my girl, running and jumping through the liquid, I was moved in the most interesting way…

I quickly felt pulled inward toward the action.  I simply had to move closer.  Not because I couldn’t view her from my original perch (as I could, easily), but because I needed to be close enough to see her joy, up close.  To watch her weave in between the water spouts and see the gape of her mouth as she laughed.  To hear her squeal as she soaked herself in the lazy creek bed.  To be near enough for her to attack me with a drive-by sopping hug and spray me with her long winding wet hair.  To witness her exuberance at catching the last little waterfall before the water shut off for the night.

How much I would have missed by staying at the edge of the action, with my nose in a book.  How grateful I am to have lifted my head up, instead, and moved close enough to be in the moment with her.  To not only see her joy, but to feel it.  And just watch it flow.

The Wall

I. Am. Exhausted. Truly, I should have put a lid on this day hours ago and just gone to bed.  But instead I sit here staring at the glowing screen, writing, hoping to claw whatever I can out of my brain so the thoughts – no, feelings – will subside.  Then, perhaps, I can sleep.  Because after today, I need to get some of this OUT.  Today, of all days, I need to let. it. go.

Today, I hit the wall.  The proverbial parental W-A-L-L.  We all know it; the one you hit when you’ve given your last warning; taken your last deep breath.  The one you hit when you’ve counted your last “ten”, and lost your last nerve.  The one you played chicken with all week long because it’s been that kind of week and you’ve been doing everything in your power to be the “good Mom” who doesn’t lose her cool by pulling every coping trick you have out of your little magic bag.  Yeah, THAT wall.  I hit it. Hard.  Not only did I hit it, I sailed clean over it.  I pole vaulted the damn thing.

Sarcasm is funny; true.  But today, it was nothing near.  It was ugly.  Flat out scary.  All filters gone, full-blown anger.  All the lessons I’ve learned and re-learned in the last ten years of self-improvement, making myself a better mother, all gone completely out the window.  WALL; face-first.  The only redeeming moment was the one when I recognized that I’d actually done it, and I stopped.  I happened to be near a mirror at the time, and I stood there staring.  The eyes looking back at me were haunted and so pained.  I had become the worst possible version of myself in that moment; and at the same time, I felt, the worst possible mother.

So I took some long ago advice from a trusted mentor; I reached out.  I called someone I loved and trusted, and shared what happened.  It was awful; I was embarrassed and so very ashamed, but I forced myself to speak the words.  I . Had. Failed.  I screwed up.  I was wrong.  And what I was met with was not judgment; but love.  Acknowledgment that we all break under pressure sometimes.  It doesn’t make it okay, but it does make us human.  I heard a reminder that I’m not actually a horrible mother, but a strong one who sometimes carries too much.  One who needs to learn to lay some of the weight down sooner, so it doesn’t break her next time.  I received kindness, and understanding.

My ability to speak the truth out loud to her and be loved allowed me the courage to do it a second time to the person it really mattered to; my child.  I apologized.  I owned up.  I explained that just because I was mad, didn’t make it okay.  I stated that I was wrong, and I would try to do better.  It was hard. Really hard.  But it was important.  Because it’s what I try to teach her; we admit our wrong-doings.  We say them out loud.  So that’s what I did for her.

Afterwards, however, I did something else I’ve been advised in the past.  I took some time, and some space.  I left the house for the rest of the day to be on my own.  I was spun out enough to know I was not much good at mothering, and just needed to be elsewhere.  So I got lost in the crowd of a mall (easy to do).  I stood in a bookstore staring blankly at the titles while wanting to carve my heart clean out of my chest.  I drove along a quiet stretch of road and just looked at the sky.  I sat alone in a dark movie theater and silently wept for a while.  It took a lot of thinking and working through the events of today to come to terms with it; but I faced it.  Head on.  And then, I decided to forgive myself for today, and try to do better tomorrow.

Because I am not perfect.  I am, in fact, markedly flawed.  I am the mother of an amazing child who happens to have some behavioral challenges, and I often do not have all the answers.  Some days (or weeks, or months) are much harder than others.  And I am learning the best path for her as I go along.  So I have to forgive myself; because if I wallow in self-hatred, then I won’t have the strength to keep pushing forward.  For her, or for me.

For all the other parents out there who have hit their Wall today…you’re not alone.  You are not perfect, either.  You are human.  You are learning as you go.  Take a break; take a breath.  Take a minute to forgive yourselves, and learn from this, too.  And try to do better tomorrow.